June 25, 2014
Gov. Pat McCrory has previously upheld North Carolina’s decision to adopt the Common Core State Standards.
Speaking to a group of business-minded folks at a state chamber of commerce meeting last summer, McCrory praised Common Core.
“It’s not the standards that are bad; it’s the execution which must be improved here in North Carolina.”
But as the legislature hovers close to joining a handful of other states that have repealed the academic standards, frequently referred to as “Common Core,” McCrory’s words, communicated through his education advisor, Eric Guckian, have gotten softer.
“The governor will support anything that has standards that are as high or higher than the ones we have,” Guckian told N.C. Policy Watch.
Lawmakers are considering legislation that would do just that — make sure that North Carolina has standards that are as high or higher than the ones we currently have. But the bills in play also jettison the Common Core, which lawmakers assail as a product of a conglomerate of states that don’t take into account the state’s own academic needs and goals.
If North Carolina repeals the Common Core, what will McCrory do?
At one point in time, at least 45 states and the District of Columbia had adopted the Common Core State Standards, which are a set of guidelines for what students should be able to know and do in English Language Arts and mathematics.
But a growing number of states have opted out of the standards or are taking steps to do so.
North Carolina’s lawmakers have worked diligently toward crafting legislation that would repeal Common Core. After a legislative review commission met for months over the past year to hear concerns about the academic standards, both the House and the Senate came up with very similar bills to halt the implementation of Common Core and set up a commission to develop alternative standards that the State Board of Education must consider for adoption.
There’s one key difference between the two bills, however: The Senate version would allow the commission, which would be comprised of a group of political appointees, to consider keeping the Common Core.
While Sen. Jerry Tillman, a now vehement opponent of Common Core and sponsor of the Senate bill, clarified in committee he trusts the commission tasked with reviewing the standards not to bring back Common Core, the concession in his bill to keep the door open for preserving the standards was enough to bring around even the N.C. Chamber, a close ally of McCrory’s, to support the Senate version of the bill.
The Chamber, along with several other business groups, has lobbied hard to keep the Common Core standards in place, taking out a full-page ad in the News & Observer to show its support for higher standards and radio ads doing the same.
A move last week by the House, however, has erased any support by the Chamber for legislation that’s currently being batted around.
After each house had passed their Common Core repeal bills, the House Education Committee had planned to take up the Senate’s version for debate last Thursday.
But Rep. Craig Horn put forward a committee substitute of the bill that was identical to the House’s own previously passed version. The move, which surprised Sen. Tillman, was a message to the Senate that they were uninterested in considering a bill that left the door open for Common Core to stay.
Now that the House language is the primary bill up for consideration in a conference committee, the Chamber doesn’t want anything to do with it all.
“In its latest version, this legislation is not only a step backward for our classrooms but it is a step backward for our manufacturing floors to the research labs and garages where the next big ideas are being born,” said a representative of the NC Chamber in a statement.
For his part, Tillman said after the passage of the latest House bill that he’d still push the language in his own Senate version.
“Why would you tie the hands of a standards commission one way or the other?” he asked, according to the News & Observer. “Why limit what they can do?”
While Tillman’s comments seem to indicate he’d like the commission to have the authority to consider keeping parts or all of the Common Core, those comments don’t really line up with previous ones he made in a committee meeting.
“Senator, that won’t happen,” Tillman told Sen. Mike Woodard, when he asked Tillman if his bill would allow review commission members to recommend bringing North Carolina back to where it all started — with the Common Core standards in place.
“I think I trust [the review commission] to do this thing right,” said Tillman.
In his strongest words to date, earlier this month Gov. McCrory said at a meeting of the N.C. Business Committee for Education that the push to repeal Common core was “not a smart move.”
McCrory and his education advisor, Guckian, say they are trying to work with legislative leaders on the legislation that would nix the standards.
“It’s critically important for the governor that we maintain stability for teachers as well as high expectations for students,” said Guckian. “Teachers really need that stability.”
While some teachers have expressed their own reservations about Common Core, many have also said that its repeal would be the tipping point for them.
“Having gone through so much training, all that struggle, and now we’re feeling better about what we’re teaching? Taking that away will push teachers over the edge,” said Lindsay K. Furst, a high school English teacher in Buncombe County.
Whether or not McCrory will veto any legislation that is ultimately passed is still up in the air.
“I won’t commit [McCrory] to any decision on that,” said Guckian. “It’s not a certainty that this will be passed given that we have a short session and we are trying to work together on these issues.”
“I know the business community is watching it very closely,” said Guckian. “It’s a big issue for our state.”
Lindsey Wagner reports on policies and regulars affecting education for NC Policy Watch.